This is a continuation of a post I began a few weeks back. I’ve continued to process this and here are a few more things that I have found to be true. Again, these are generalizations and some of them certainly apply to women just as much as they do to men, but I think that we will do well to focus on these things as worship leaders, specifically as we are trying to reach the men in our churches.
4. Men like to feel like they have accomplished something
Are there ways we can structure our gatherings in such a way as to inform our congregation what we’re going to do, tell them when we’re doing it, and then let them know what we’ve just done? There’s something about the feeling of accomplishment that I think really resonates with guys.
5. Style matters – but excellence is the trump card
I’ve heard people claim that in order to get guys to sing you have to use a certain style, tempo, or volume. I’m not convinced that this is true. Going back to my first point, the reality is that men can sing, and trying to say that men can only sing or enjoy a certain style seems a bit short-sighted. Generally speaking, if you were to browse the music library of a typical guy you would likely find a pretty wide range of styles musically. Sure, occasionally you will have your niche crowd that only gets excited about a certain type of music, but in general when it comes to church music style is important – but it isn’t the end-all factor (see John 4). However, what we should worry about is that whatever style we create is as well-executed as it can possibly be. For better or for worse, I know my own tendency is to “check out” as soon as I sense something being “off” with the music, but I think I’m like most guys in that I can at least appreciate a variety of music if it is done well. Now, with that said, this certainly doesn’t minimize the need for the worship pastor to act as a cultural “concierge” of sorts – he needs to know his congregation, understand what’s relevant, and be able to discern what seems to work and what doesn’t. For the past five years at the church where I lead worship, our musical style has been constantly evolving to the point where, I feel, we are just now starting to click with where our congregation is at. It is a combination of factors – the style I am comfortable with, the style the musicians at my church are capable of executing well, the style that my congregation gets…it’s certainly a process. So style is absolutely important and is intrinsically connected to the “vibe” of each individual congregation, but here’s the bottom line – be stylistically sensitive and know your congregation, but don’t feel like you have to limit yourself as a worship leader simply in an effort to get guys to sing. Rather, find the style that works in your context and make sure you are doing it to the absolute best that you can. The men in your church will have a greater appreciation for authenticity coupled with excellence than they will with music that is simply fast or loud.
6. Be real
I think men tend to be particularly turned off to inauthenticity – and sadly, worship leaders are notorious for this. I think too often we feel like it’s our job to be “cheerleaders for God”, and while we are in fact called to set the tone of joyful, exuberant praise, a lot of times the “let’s sing that again, this time like you mean it!” sentiment can come off a bit fake-ish. Paul Baloche has wisely pointed out that “people don’t like being yelled at, manipulated, or artificially hyped up” and that worship leaders should strive for a more “conversational” tone in their leading, and I think he’s right on (see his full article here). The challenge for those of us with personalities that are maybe a bit quieter, is to find the balance between potentially losing the excitement that must accompany passionate praise to the Creator of the universe with an overhyped style that can be received as inauthentic. Simply put – men will respect and respond to leaders who challenge them, who inspire them, but perhaps most of all, who are clearly real.